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Why I am Against the Family

Why I am Against  The FamilyI have always wanted to be a husband and father. I love it. In no other calling do I feel quite as secure and delighted. (Note: I have exactly zero teenagers.) I am a family man. I’m not the poster boy for a family man, but I’m his eager, bespectacled understudy. I love my own family and seek to live in service to them. I am spending much of my time devoted to serving families. I marvel at God’s creation of the family, bask in the brilliance of his unrivaled design. I am troubled and heartbroken over a culture arrogantly dismissive of God’s instruction about families. I love my family. I love the family. You don’t get any more pro-family than me.

Except, I’m against The Family.

I’m against The Family as a rival, or substitute, religion. I’m against The Family as an end. I’m against The Family as an avenue of self-righteous Moralism, a weapon to stomp those who have failed to keep a clean record. I’m against The Family as a sentimental idol. I am against The Family.

When we see The Family as something to be worshiped, instead of something to be grateful for, we’re far afield of God’s will.

The Family is a beautiful gift, but makes for a crummy religion.

We can’t be for the family until we are against the family as an idol, as a substitute for Godward devotion.

There’s more, much more, than the family. Jesus famously said he would bring division in families. I don’t think this is faithfully used to support introducing unwarranted friction in a home, but I acknowledge that a believer in Christ in Saudi Arabia may face the task of bringing disharmony to his home by sharing his faith in Christ. He must be against his family to be for Christ.

If our hope is in our families, we are mistaking gift for Giver. It is usually not something like Satanic Church membership which tempts us. More often, it’s making a good thing into an ultimate thing. The family, as many have said before, is perhaps the easiest of idols to dismiss as harmless. But we’re wise to be wary.

Here are a few signs that may indicate that our own family, or The Family, is an idol.

-When our family fails, it feels like a world-ending catastrophe.

-When we fail our family, it’s feels like a world-ending catastrophe.

-We are baffled about how singles, including singles with unique and profoundly personal struggles, fit into the life of the church.

-We see the church primarily as a place where The Family is preserved, supported, and displayed as lovely.

-The Family is the focus of ministry.

In “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars,” poet Richard Lovelace wrote to explain to his lady love why he must leave her side and join the fight, putting his love for her in context of his deepest identity.

Yet this inconstancy is such
         As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
         Lov’d I not Honour more.

Lovelace was one of the famous Cavalier Poets. The Cavaliers were loyal to the King, through thick and thin. (Think of an English version of the famous Musketeers of Dumas’ fiction.) All other loves were subject to their primary, honorable duty to the king.

They are imperfect models, but the romantic view of these men is attractive, instructive, and inspiring.

We cannot love our families so much, if we love not King Jesus far more.


S.D. Smith, S.D.Smith.net

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  1. Could you explain what you mean by ” -The Family is the focus of ministry” ? What about the name and purpose of this blog? What about DR. Dobson’s Focus on the Family? I think I do struggle with this issue of not making my family an idol, so I am trying to understand your meaning.

    1. Now I can not speak as to what the author meant but I can tell you what that line reminded me of. My husband and I married young, really young. We wanted kids shortly after marrying it was not in the cards at that time.About 4 years into marriage I am sitting in a church where they were beginning a sermon on How to Make a House a Home. I was really excited for this sermon. I felt (and still do) it had so much potential. It fell rather flat on it’s face when the pastor got to his second point in the sermon. You HAD to have children to make your house a home. I tried to sit through it. I really did. I couldn’t that was the first time and to date the only time I have had to walk up and leave mid service. By the time I got to the car I was sobbing.
      So back to the point of my response to your comment. That is one example of the church making the The Family the focus of it’s ministry. Churches can and should minister to families, and perhaps even have ministries just for families, but when the insult, injure, and push away the single, the child-less, or any of God’s children they are doing a dis-service to The Gospel.

    2. Hi Heather! Maybe I should have said Family is the focus of church ministry. As in, the purpose of the local church is to minister to families (ties in with neglect of singles, etc.). I didn’t mean to say no ministry should focus on the family! Whoops! What am I doing at this blog? 🙂 I know I struggle with making my family and “The Family” an idol. But I don’t want to do it. The Prodigal God is a good book, actually a lot from Tim Keller is good on this. Peace to you!

  2. You can’t love your family too much (or really anyone else for that matter). 1 John 4:7
    Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
    It’s my opinion that the institutional church is the subject more prone to idolatry among present day believers. The article could probably be written with the words family and church flip flopped and be nearly as accurate. The family and the church are people. When treated as objects, they can become idols.

  3. Sam, Sam, Sam – thank you. Another great piece that hits the nail on the head. Idolatry of family is one of those billboards-we-don’t-see versions of idolatry. We recognise materialism, pride etc, but not so easily the idolatry of family. I pray that as wonderful sites like For The Family aim to equip families to function well under the banner of Christ and for His gospel we will keep seeing the *reason* we uphold families being for His Kingdom purposes above all. And … I *love* the quote you use. How true.

  4. Thanks, brother SD. I’m going to have to chew on this for a while — particularly what the “wrong way” looks like in real life… that is to say, my life.

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